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Garrett Kell: The Day My Secrets Got Out

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 7, 2022 9:00 pm

Garrett Kell: The Day My Secrets Got Out

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 7, 2022 9:00 pm

Author and pastor Garrett Kell lived in the agony of his own secrets and porn addiction. But God used his breakdown for healing in Garrett--& his church.

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Jesus was very patient with sexual sinners. He was very tender with them, but he was hard against religious hypocrites. And you've got to pick.

Are you going to be a broken, humble sinner who needs him, or are you going to be a religious hypocrite? Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So I can remember often men in our church would set up an appointment to come see me.

Constantly. Yeah, I mean, you know, you're a pastor and you talk about different things and you hit a cord with somebody, so they'll come in. Wait, so when they would come in, did you think, oh, I know what this is about? Well, often they would sort of stumble around because I could tell they're afraid to really talk about why they're, you know, you're talking or laughing, but I can sense them getting nervous. And usually, and I'm not kidding, it felt like eight out of ten guys had a porn struggle that they, and because I had from the pulpits that I've struggled with, that they felt comfortable, like, well, if he struggled with it, I can go in and talk to him about it.

But they were a little afraid to bring it up, so they bring it up. And I'll never forget this one time, Bruce, one of the drummers in our band, and I played bass, so I knew Bruce really well. He sets up this appointment and I'm like, why would Bruce want to meet? I mean, we talk all the time.

We're in the band together, right? And he comes in, he's hem-hawing around, and I finally go, okay, Bruce, I know why you're here. And he goes, why? I go, you're struggling with porn. I know every guy that I've talked to struggles with porn, so that's okay. Let's go. Let's talk about it. He goes, dude, no, I don't struggle with porn. Why do you say that? And I'm like, well, you know, a lot of guys are like you.

They're hesitant to tell me what's going on. So I figured that's what it is. I go, why are you here? He goes, well, I just gave my life to Christ.

I'm just hoping you can, like, disciple me. And I'm like, awesome, man, this is great, you know. But I'll never forget that moment, because I got to the point where I thought, this is universal.

Every guy. I didn't meet with women, so I didn't know their story. Well, and I was meeting with the women, and so often women were saying, I have no idea what to do. My husband's struggling. I feel like I'm not enough. I feel like this is about me. Help me.

And then I would also have meetings where women are saying, I'm struggling with this issue, and I don't know where to get help. Yeah, so we've got Garrett Kell back with us today, pastor of a church in Delray Baptist. Did I say it right?

Delray Baptist Church in Alexander, Virginia. You were with us yesterday. We're glad you're back. Welcome back.

Yeah, it's good to be here. Appreciate it. And I love it, Garrett, that you have six kids. And how many years you've been married?

We've been married 14 years, yep. Did you ever think you would have six kids? Was that like the plan? No.

Didn't like kids much. And then the Lord's like, we're going to give you a bunch of that, a bunch of them, and fix that. So yeah. That's awesome. Yeah, and if you missed yesterday, obviously we heard your story, which was this epic, awesome coming to Christ story. But then we got into after you came to Christ, and now you've been pastoring for years, you had this secret sort of struggle that we just talked about, this pornography battle. We heard the journey yesterday, but we didn't hear of how you came to start winning this battle. It sounded like you were hiding something, even in ministry, and nobody really knew except you. And a lot of us have been there, and I know our listeners, if they're being really honest, they may be the only ones that know this battle. Tell us the rest of the story.

I mean, what happened? You're pastoring, and yet when you go home, you're struggling with pornography. I think too, Dave, I think listeners are thinking, is it possible to win? Sure.

You know, how can we win, help us to win? Because I feel hopeless at this point. So as Dave said, take us back to your journey. Yeah, I did feel hopeless. You know, I mean, as I mentioned yesterday, there was a time where I thought I'm just always going to be like this.

Yeah. And I kind of resolved myself to trying to figure out how to live in the duplicity. It haunts you. A guilty conscience is a gift from the Lord, and I was trying to hide it. But yeah, so I've been a pastor for about three years, and I had a pattern of every couple weeks or every month or two or something like that, where I would retreat either for a brief time or for a more extended time and indulge in pornography, then feel super guilty and delete my search history and call a friend and be like, hey, I just want to let you know I'm struggling a little bit.

Pray for me. And that pattern just went on and on and on. Did you wallow in that? Did you were you in your head full of shame? There were times that I certainly was full of shame. I felt it particularly when I was trying to counsel other people where I felt the weight of my hypocrisy, where I would be trying to counsel them. And there was a couple of times I think I withheld some really hard words because I knew deep down that I wasn't living it. And I can just see how Satan was.

He wasn't just getting me. He was getting a lot of people because of my sin struggle, which is interesting. I mean, just to make the point that we often think our sin struggle just affects us.

It does not. It always affects others. I mean, the people you're ministering to, but if you're a dad or a mom, it is affecting your family. I mean, because you're going to come in and your mind's going to be elsewhere or just you're numbed. You're not going to be as in tune with the needs of others, or you're going to be angry because you're ticked off that I did this again or whatever it may be, or you're going to be distracted or worried that you're going to get caught or whatever. And that just sucks energy and life out of loving others. It dulls your heart toward God.

It's not like you're like, I looked at porn. Like, oh, I just want to run to the scriptures and pray. Like, no, that's not what you want to do, what Adam and Eve did in the garden.

They ran and hid and covered up. And it does that. It breaks every relationship.

Yeah. And here's another thing you don't even realize and we now know is Exodus 20, 10 commandments says right in there, the sins of the father are going to visit down to the third and fourth generation of your legacy. I've discovered the things you do in private that your kids may never even know. You find out they're struggling with the same kind of sin their dad did.

And they didn't even know their dad struggled with it. It's just a, it's a family legacy. Sure. Yeah. And not in some kind of generational curse kind of thing where you're destined to the sins of your fathers or guilty for them, but there is an impact. There's a ripple effect of sin. It never just affects you.

Right. And again, the church I was pastoring, God was blessing it and people were coming to the Lord and people were growing and he was working in spite of me. I had, I think what the, what I call the Solomon complex where God was blessing. It seemed like everything I was touching, but all the while I had these compromises and eventually it'll catch up with you because God will not in his mercy.

He will not let you stay hidden. And during this time I met my, my now wife, we had long story, great story. Her side is a lot more holy than mine, but we met, started dating and I was thinking about joining a friend on a church plant, a guy named Reed Monahan up in New Jersey.

We were going to go up and plant a church there. So it was about three and a half years through my time in Texas, pastoring. And I said, you know what, if I'm going to work with him, I should probably let him know everything. Cause I kind of felt like I wanted to just come clean. So I wrote what I now call the letter. And in the letter I chronicled all of my sexual sin from the time I become a Christian up until then. And I had told Carrie about my struggle with pornography and by his grace, the relationship really helped and there had been some distance, but I had still never been honest about where I had been.

So I sent that letter to my buddy Reed. Carrie and I hopped on the plane to fly up to Jersey to film our promo video for the church, get off the plane, have a voicemail. And he says, Hey, let's meet up at the coffee shop. So we met up at the coffee shop and I had the hardest encounter that I've ever had.

And Reed, he was a former division one wrestler. He sat across from me and looked me in the eyes and he said, Garrett, I love you. He goes, but I read your letter and I do not in good conscience feel like we can move forward with the church plant. And to be honest with you, brother, I don't think you're qualified to be a pastor right now.

You're not above approach. You've been living a lie for a long time and you need to go back. You need to tell your elders, your fellow pastors, what's been going on. And you know, I start coming up with every excuse. Oh, it's been a while or, Hey, you know, things are new now.

And he goes, no, you've been living a lie and you need to tell the truth. And I knew he was right. So I went back home and I gave the letter to the elders and that began 2007. It began what I call the year of the anvil.

An anvil is a hard metal surface that you lay something on and you beat it into shape. And the Lord used 2007 to break me in all the ways that I needed to. Those guys and their families, all they wanted was a church that preached the Bible. All they wanted was to see their friends have a place they could go and hear about Jesus. That wasn't just mixed in with dead religion. That's all they wanted in a church. And I, I heard them. And they read the letter and they wanted some time to think about it. So we met back up and they, they had some very hard words for me.

One of them, I still remember a good friend of this day. His name's Will. He said, uh, he said, you know, Garrett, Jesus was very patient with sexual sinners and he was very tender with them, but he was hard against religious hypocrites. And you've got to pick, are you going to be a broken, humble sinner who needs him?

Or are you going to be a religious hypocrite? And that struck me and he was right. Those were, it was a hard word, but it was the right word. I needed to hear it. In a small town, things happen and word kind of got out about the word. Word kind of got out about the letter somehow. And people started to have questions about, Hey, heard something's going on with the pastor.

And as you can imagine in a small town, it mutates. So basically what they said was like, what we need to do is we need to have you come up in front of the church and tell everybody what you did. So after I got done preaching one Sunday, one of the elders got up and said, I need to let all y'all know, many of you have probably heard, uh, Garrett has some personal things going on, uh, some personal sin tonight at six o'clock, we're going to meet back here and he's going to share about it. Wow.

Now we didn't have meaningful membership. So this was basically, uh, anybody in this small town who wants to hear about the pastor's sin. Oh boy.

Come on out. So that night the room was full and it was one of those slow motion moments. My greatest fears were coming to pass because the reason I hadn't been honest this whole time, like I loved the Lord. I did. I loved him and I just wanted people to know him, but I was so afraid that people were going to think bad of Jesus. And even more so I was afraid they were going to think bad of me. And I just basically went through the whole letter and told them everything that I had done, even as their pastor in regards to looking at pornography. And I wept and I asked for their forgiveness, told them I'd do whatever they wanted me to do. If they wanted me to resign, I resigned. They wanted me to do any, whatever. I'm keenly aware that Jesus paid for that as well as a pastor, but all of that, it really broke me.

They really humbled me. When you say you're broken, what did that look like? Fast forward a couple weeks, months, somewhere in there. Cause we had multiple meetings after this where there was more of this and constantly confessing. And I remember I got to the place where I had confessed every sin that I could ever think of. And I was laying on the rug in my bedroom. It was one of those plush rugs, really plush.

So it was all up in my grill. And I, I remember just laying there and I remember I had no more tears to cry. And I remember saying, okay, God, I can't think of anything else that I could confess. And he didn't speak to me audibly, but it was, it was like, he said, now I can work with you because before I had been so trying to control my sin and you can't control sin.

You got to kill it. Yeah. I was. And that was part of it. My sin was not just the pornography.

Pornography is never isolated. It's always tied to 10,000 other things. For me, I was discontent and I was, I was prideful and I, it was so many things were feeding it. And it was my area of weakness and it was the easiest thing to run to. So that's why I think it got me so much. But like, I felt like I had no more sins to confess that if somebody walked in the room and said, Hey, I heard something about you.

I would be like, shoot, go ahead. Who doesn't know? Like there was nothing, you know? And I was in the light, it was the hardest year of my life.

I mean, it was the church I hurt. My dog died. You know, I was in a burning accident where 12% of my body was burned. My face, my arm, all of it was a second and third degree burns.

It was a string of thing after thing after thing. And you're engaged at this time? I was.

Yeah. My wife sent a wedding invitations from the burn ward in Dallas and we didn't know if I'd ever had my face back. We had no idea. I'm thinking she read the letter. No, she was there for the whole thing. But she's thinking I'm with you.

Yeah. And I don't think she was blind. I think she was sober minded in this, but at one of the meetings, she got up and she said, I just want you guys to know you're right that he sinned. We should see his sin is serious, but I want you to know, like, I'm going into my engagement with this man with eyes wide open. Like he's repented of this. He's tried to be humble and confess his sin before you. You've got to decide whether you think he's qualified to be a pastor or not.

And those are real questions. And you've got to think through that. But I want you to know that this man is not walking in the darkness anymore. And you know, she did that because she loved the Lord, but I think she saw it rightly. You know, I had repented by this time and God was very kind, but it was the worst year of my life.

That's one of the things I would say for whoever's listening right now. And you think I could never tell I could never come out in the light. You don't know what would happen if I told my husband what I've been doing, or if I told my wife what I've been doing, or if I told my parents, or if I told my church, I need you to know that it's going to be hard. It may be harder than you imagine, but I would not trade what I gained from that year for anything because I got to see my Lord as he is. I lost my sin, but I got Jesus in a fresh way. I wasn't saved again.

I hadn't lost my salvation, but I knew the intimacy and the joy of the Lord in a way that I don't think would have ever been possible any other way. Hebrews 12 talks about the discipline is not enjoyable for the moment. It's like the understatement of the New Testament, right? He says, but it produces the peaceful fruit of righteousness. And that piece that passes understanding when like, if you came in here and said, I know everything about you, I would not be scared because it's in the light and Jesus has paid it all and I'm free. Like it doesn't mean I couldn't be tempted on the plane when I'm flying here.

The guy next to me was watching some show with all kinds of make out scenes. And I'm just like, of course. So I have to turn my, I have to turn myself to look the other way to not. And of course there's a part of me that likes, well, maybe one little look.

I'm like, no, I'm like, come on. Jesus is better. You know, and that's the fight all the way until we see him face to face. But I just want you to know that if you're in the midst of that battle, there's a way out, there's a way out. And Jesus paved it with his blood and he will walk with you and whatever it costs you, it'll be worth it because he will never leave you or forsake you. Listeners can't see this, but Garrett has his Bible right beside him.

I wish you all could see it because it's marked up. You can tell that this sucker is worn. You have been in your word. You can tell that it's been your lifeline.

It is my life. I live by lies for so long, both as a non-believer and as a believer. I mean, I got duped and we need his word. His word is truth and he never breaks his promises.

He always keeps them, including this one. You know that he's better than sin and that he will help you to find freedom from whatever bondage you're in right now. You don't have to always be like that.

It doesn't mean you won't always struggle, but it does mean you don't have to be ensnared. There's a way out. Well, let's talk about finding freedom because I'm guessing did you end up having to leave that church or you stayed? I stayed. So they received you.

They did. Which is a beautiful thing. It was a hard year. It was – I had a lot of offers to go to other places and even some counsel that I probably should because it was really hard. But one of the things the Lord convinced me of is that I had made this mess and that I needed to walk through it.

And you know what? What the Lord did in me, he then did in that church. So some people left and I totally understand why, right? But there's something else that left in those days. And that was the spirit of hiding and self-righteousness. People didn't hide anymore as much.

I mean, you know, people still struggle with stuff. But like the amount of people who began to confess adulteries and anger and stealing and lying and their own porn problems and everything else you can imagine because all of a sudden what they saw was that in the light, there's safety and grace. Like it may hurt, but Jesus is going to put the balm of his blood upon you and he is going to bring healing and there's life in the light. So we began to be a community that learned to walk with a new kind of culture, a culture of confession and repentance and running to the throne of grace to receive grace and mercy in a time of need. And that really changed because I understood all of a sudden I went to a Christian counselor during this time and his name is John. And he was the first brother who helped me to understand that the gospel was not just for non-Christians, but it was for Christians. He helped me to see that the gospel is for broken Christians too and that we never graduate from being broken, desperate, needy sinners. Like we don't stop that.

We need that increasingly so. When we sin as a believer, we sin with eyes wide open, with the Spirit indwelling us. And that's all the more grievous, right? We're sin of bounds, grace of bounds all the more. So praise God that there's help and there's hope. And yeah, so we stayed for another three years and the Lord helped us to complete that chapter in a time when, when I left, it wasn't because of scandal. It was because, you know what, I think I've led you guys as far as I can. And I went and served under another pastor for about a year. It was kind of my practical PhD and then went from there out to, to help revitalize the church.

I'll tell you Washington DC and I've been there. There is a beauty to that. I feel like when Dave confessed at our church, like this, and I think you had been beyond it, Dave, because you weren't pastoring when this came out of your porn struggle, but when you confessed to the church that that had been a struggle and that our marriage, like when we were struggling in our marriage, we would talk about it and we would say, leave your mask at the door, come in free in terms of who you are and what you're struggling with, because we will meet you where you are, because that's what Jesus does. He meets us right where we are.

I remember when I, man, I can see it. I mean, back then we were renting a space, you know, we used to call ourselves a church where if you can find us, you can join us because we had a different hotel or whatever. And so we were at this Michigan State Management Center the night I decided I need to confess my struggle.

And we just started first year and just a couple hundred people come in at that point. But I remember my co-founder came up after I got off the stage and he just looked at me and he goes, you just changed this church. I go, what do you mean? And I wasn't thinking I'm setting a, you know, a sort of a core value for us.

But he was like, you just said a core value. You just said to this church, this is a place where you don't have to fake and hide. You can be honest and Jesus will meet you right there.

And looking back 30 years later, he was right. It was like it became known as the place where the grace of Jesus will meet you where you are, not where you're pretending to be, you know. And so, but he's so loving, he won't let you stay there. Yeah, no. Yeah. And he's going to surround you with a community, which is what you did. You said, I have to say this out loud to somebody so they can come into my darkness and bring the light and me out of there. Right.

Yeah. And that's where, you know, the next chapter is learning then to live as a Christian like that. So we don't want it to just be like one big epic confession and then that's it. But right now, how do you cultivate the Christian life that is oriented toward heaven, toward Christ, where we're all helping one another, encouraging one another day by day, as long as it's called today so that we will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. How do we learn to confess on the regular to one another and honestly, and live in the light because anything left in the dark, the devil will use.

When you walk in the light as he is in the light, like there's fellowship and freedom and joy. And that's the way that Christ intends us to follow him. And it's possible, you know, and there's no perfect church. I mean, our church isn't perfect now by any stretch of imagination. We're struggling. You know, we all still want to hide stuff and nobody wants to, you know, but we fight against it and we'll regularly welcome people to be like, hey, glad that you're here.

If you're looking for people who had it all together, you came to the wrong place because they are not here. None of us are. But that's the spirit of Christ, right? That he welcomes.

He welcomes all. Well, what's interesting is your book, Pure in Heart, Sexual Sin and the Promises of God. All we've covered so far is like the first couple chapters. I mean, seriously. I mean, we got to step into the, what is purity look like?

How does God deliver us and bring us to victory and freedom? Right. I mean, a lot of that's the rest of your book.

And I think we need to, we need to talk more. And I want to say, well done. Like the letter, you know, the letter in quotation marks that you wrote.

The fact that that was read and then you confessed it and talked about it in front of your whole church. That is not an easy thing to do. I can see that you've changed your entire life and legacy as a result of that courageous step. Yeah, the Lord gives the strength. Like I was, I was too weak to do that by myself. He, he brought me to the end of myself and he used other people to help me, but I do praise him for it. Yeah, it was the best decision I've ever made.

Aside from following Jesus. Yeah. And I, and I would add this, that if you're listening and you've got that secret in the dark and nobody knows the dark wins every time you've got to choose to do a Garrett did and say, I've got to write a letter or I've got to make a phone call, but somebody has to know my struggle because victory is on the other side of that confession. It's where it begins is when you bring it into the light.

So today's your day. Many of us know that mold festers in the dark. It grows in dark places. It multiplies and it causes destruction as well. And sin is exactly the same. God wants us to drag our sin kicking and screaming into the light because that's where healing is.

That's where transformation takes place. What I love about Garrett Kell and his conversation today with David and Wilson is that it was a practical and encouraging conversation that really it raises the bar, but it also saturates us with grace. It helps us to know that, Hey, we're not alone.

We're not alone in our struggles here. And when we're honest and transparent about them, God will change us and then in turn, bring glory to his name so the gospel can go forth. Christians are forgiven failures, and it's helpful to know that even pastors are forgiven failures too. Garrett has written a book called Pure in Heart, Sexual Sin and the Promises of God.

For many of us who are trapped in sexual sin, we believe that sometimes there's just no escape, and he helps us to know that there is good news in the gospel, not just that salvation, but in our present struggles today. If you want to find great answers to this very common struggle amongst many of us, you could pick up a copy of Garrett Kell's book Pure in Heart in our Family Life Resource Center. You can head to our website at to order a copy, or you can give us a call at 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today.

And while you're there, many of you know that Family Life Today is listener supported. While you're there ordering a copy of Garrett's book, if you make a donation of any amount all this week, we want to send you a copy of Sharon James' book When You Don't Like Your Story. I think it's very interesting how we're talking about this topic with Garrett Kell when it comes to sexual sin, and how the shame of that can really help us to feel embarrassed about our story, about some of the things in our past. And that's why this book by Sharon James is so incredibly helpful, because we can look at our story and go, you know what, I just really don't like that very much. But her question is, what if your worst chapters could actually become your greatest victories?

God is in the business of taking the ugly parts of our lives, turning them around, and giving glory to himself in the process. So when you make a donation of any amount at, we'll send you a copy of Sharon James' book When You Don't Like Your Story. Now tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking one more time with Garrett Kell about what does it mean to run the race with purity from the beginning to the end.

That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you can join us. If this content today or any of our Family Life programs have been helpful for you, we'd love for you to share today's podcast with a family member or a friend. And wherever you get your podcasts, it could really advance the work of Family Life Today if you'd scroll down and rate and review us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-25 21:37:29 / 2023-05-25 21:50:23 / 13

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